Yesterday, a dead man held a press conference. Or, rather, a press conference concerning the death of Russian war reporter Arkady Babchenko featured a surprise guest: Arkady Babchenko. As far as the world knew, Babchenko was dead - killed while on his way to buy bread, found by his wife, shot three times in the back, in the stairwell outside his apartment. Reports believed that he died in the ambulance en route to the hospital.
Babchenko had fled Russia in February 2017, afraid for his life after receiving death threats. His family received death threats, too. And his home address was published online, accompanied by threats. The man was a target, and he knew it. He found refuge in Ukraine.
Immediately after news of his death spread throughout the world on Tuesday, Ukraine and Russia got into a spate of accusations. Yesterday, at the news conference, the police officials announced that they had answers. Better yet, they had a suspect. They announced one arrest. Officers showed a video of the arrest. The man had been paid $40,000 to kill Babchenko, the dissident reporter, the thorn in Russia's side.
Then, like a ghost, Babchenko stepped onto the stage. The room shook with gasps and cheers, as he said, “I'm still alive."
Then, like a ghost, Babchenko stepped onto the stage. The room shook with gasps and cheers, as he said, 'I'm still alive.'
He added: “I know that sickening feeling when you bury a colleague. I'm sorry you had to go through this but there was no other way."
Ukranian police had been aware of the murder plot for two months. In turn, they'd engineered an elaborate sting operation. They decided to fake Babchenko's death. The effect was so convincing that even his wife believed that he'd been shot and killed.
Unsurprisingly, the Russians aren't happy. Russian dissidents have a habit of dying under strange circumstances, to say the very least. Let's just hope that no one dies for real next time. I know, that's a lofty goal.